In the beginning of last year’s school year, the Minneapolis Board of Education sat down and created the Changing School Options plan. This new initiative, which was voted on unanimously, was designed to cut transportation costs as well as redistribute students. The CSO plan split the school district into three distinct school attendance zones, each with two high schools: Zone one with Edison and Henry (North is a specialty school*), zone two with South and Roosevelt, and zone three with Southwest and Washburn.
Within each zone each high school is assigned its own districts in whose resident students have first priority to that school. Second priority is given to students from the rest of the zone. Southwest is assigned the districts 3A, 3B, 3E, and 3G, and also draws second priority students from Washburn’s districts 3C, 3D, 3F, and 3H.
Although the main reason for these changes was to reduce busing expenses, the CSO was also designed to redistribute students amongst the high schools.
“The district wants the larger schools like us [Southwest] and South to be smaller, and the smaller schools like Washburn and Roosevelt to grow bigger” summarized Dr. Smith.
This however, as Dr. Smith went on to explain, was based off of old statistics on where people went when they had free citywide choice. These predictions did not account for the students from Windom, who previously went to Washburn, but after the changes were included in district 3G with Southwest as their priority school.
Another major contributing factor to the unexpected number of students at southwest was that of the returning students who choose to take the city bus system to get to Southwest rather than receive free transportation by going to another school. Although the district did predict that many students would choose this path, they did not predict the large amount that chose to use this option. According to Dr. Smith, there are over two hundred students currently using public buses to get to and from Southwest.
These students along with the iffy predictions of the school district led to a larger enrollment than expected. The district predicted and budgeted for 1690 students at Southwest this year, with 400 freshmen, but instead Southwest wound up with nearly 1800 students and 460 freshmen.
Dr. Smith dispels the rumors that the Newsweek article that praised Southwest is the cause of the extra students as wishful students, and that in the cases of students that transferred from private schools to Southwest, the economy was most likely to largest contributing factor in those decisions.
Dr. Smith maintains a school blog that discusses school events and the school district has a full description of the zoning system. Links below.
*Specialty schools offer a citywide program that is available to students from all zones. South has the All Nations and Open programs, and North offers the IB Diploma and Certificate programs as well as the Summatech program.